NEW YORK JETS @ DENVER
The Jets have seen the last of Tom Brady picking apart their defensive backfield, at least for this season. Now they’ll get to see a Denver Broncos unit that all of four weeks ago barely managed 100 rushing yards per game and now is ranked second in the NFL with a weekly average of 158. That could be labeled the “Tebow Effect” to be catchy, but this week’s Denver backfield will unveil journeyman Lance Ball as the starter and second year practice squad regular Jeremiah Johnson in a rushing situation that hasn't been stable since the days of Clinton Portis early last decade. Names like Mike Anderson, Rueben Droughns, Mike Bell, Selvin Young and Peyton Hillis have all graced the Denver lineup, all with pretty decent success. Willis McGahee, one of the surprises of the 2011 campaign, tweaked his hamstring Sunday, but was supposed to practice Tuesday, making him questionable for the game. The Broncos are minus-5 in turnover ratio but since becoming the starter, Tim Tebow has a 7:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. John Fox has been open-minded enough to revamp his offense back to a college-style option offense, which had 55 rushing attempts Sunday against Kansas City. The Jets have won just one road game for the year, and will be coming off a short week, having to fight the fatigue of just four days rest and the mile high Denver altitude. Nevertheless, sitting at 5-4, this is must-win contest for the Jets, after having been swept by the Patriots. The Jets rush defense has improved seven spots to 16th, and knows that the Broncos aren’t likely to attempt more than 20 pass plays for the entire game. The Jets will try to get their own ground game going, minus LaDainian Tomlinson and his sprained MCL, meaning he’ll be out this week and maybe a few more. That means Shonn Greene will see more carries, which will make his disappointed fantasy owners happier, but does not necessarily ensure more success. The Jets line has struggled all year, and allowed five sacks against New England. Mark Sanchez will have to fire up the Jets passing attack, though it’ll be minus Jerome Kerley who is also listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game with a knee injury. Fatigue and inertia aside, this is the Jets game to lose. Jets CB Darrelle Revis is fourth in the league with passes defensed and tied for fifth with four interceptions. He should be able to take away Tebow’s favorite target Eric Decker, leaving the Jets front seven to shut down Tebow’s running attack. It also means Demaryius Thomas could be a sleeper play this week for all three targets he'll see. McGahee is likely out, and though Ball has earned the yards he gets, he isn’t a breakaway threat the Jets should fear. The question mark is Johnson, who could be featured in the option, but is green enough that Bart Scott and David Harris shouldn’t have too many problems with him. On offense, the Jets have too many weapons, and should emphasize Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller (all of whom should get high consideration for your lineup) early, forcing Denver to play from behind, and then get Greene his share of carries. Though Denver has garnered one quarter of all their sacks in the past two weeks, it has been against the likes of K.C. and a fresh-off-the-bench-led Carson Palmer/Kyle Boller Oakland offense. Meanwhile, the secondary has managed just six interceptions this year. Also to note, the Jets have won all but one game where Greene carried the rock 16-plus times, so expect 20 touches for 80 yards and his third score of the year. Tebow sure knows how to win football games, but I'm taking' Sexy Rexy' on the road.
JETS 22, DENVER 13